Resource roundup: 5 free tools to get you in the sharing mood

You will (not) be shocked to hear that I spend a fair amount of time on the internet. Yes, that bountiful land where people freely share opinions, ideas, and cat photos. Whether you want to see them or not.

In my travels, I’ve come across some great tools that can help you produce fantastic work while making the most of the internet’s sharing spirit. Here are 5 free tools that are making data, knowledge, and resources more accessible to us all.


Brainstorming: Loopy

I just discovered Loopy last month, and it’s one of those tools that says work be damned, I’m going to play with this thing — for science!

It’s this alluring mix of drawing, flow charts, and animation. You draw an awful circle with your mouse and Loopy automatically snaps it into a perfectly round shape; a shaky arrow becomes a connector. Draw enough of these and you’ve got yourself a sweet flow chart.

drawing an interactive flowchart

Gif by Nicky Case / Loopy

And that’s when it gets really cool.

Click the play button at the bottom of your screen and watch how your newly-built system comes alive. For example, check out this model of the fragile flowchart-awesomeness ecosystem.

You’ll probably need to take time out of your day to model things now. You know, for science.


Research: Open Access Button and Unpaywall

Ever found yourself stuck on the wrong side of an academic journal’s paywall? While emailing authors and guilting collegiate interns into providing access are both solid paths around the paywall, two other tools have appeared on the scene — and both are 100% legal.

Open Access Button and Unpaywall do essentially the same thing in slightly different ways. Both are Chrome browser extensions that you can click when you come across ye olde paywall. The extensions then check to see if they have copies on hand in their respective databases.

You won’t see 100% success, but OA and Unpaywall will get you a bit closer. And both are open source tools, so you know there’s no sneaky hijinks going on behind the scenes.


Writing: Hemingway App

Love it or hate it, writing is a fact of life for nonprofits. Reports, funding appeals, emails — even social media requires the written word.

And in all that, clarity is key. Though nonprofit work can be complex, the way you describe it doesn’t have to be.

The Hemingway App may not make you write like Ernest himself, but it will help your writing be more straightforward (and thus, in its own way, more open and accessible). It’s like a second set of eyes for your work; your own personal editor.

To use it, you can either copy-paste your work in from another word processor or write directly in the app.

Hemmingway App free nonprofit tool

So I write long sentences sometimes. Tattletale.


Images: O-Dan

Eye-catching photography is good. Stealing is bad. You should have permission to use every photo on your website and publications, but sometimes you simply don’t have enough of your own photos on hand. And playing “finders-keepers” on Google Images is not a path to success.

Fortunately, O-Dan’s got your back. Trying to find a free high-resolution stock image? O-Dan will send your search term through a bunch of websites that all offer free images with Creative Commons Zero licences. CC0 is the freest of the Creative Commons licences, allowing you to do whatever the heck you want with the pictures, no attribution required.

O-Dan free nonprofit tools

O-Dan even has photos for more abstract words like “open.” Though looking at the number of open signs, perhaps it wasn’t as abstract as I thought.


What are your favorite tools for nonprofits?

What apps and services have saved the day for you and your nonprofit? Whose products do you love so much people think you work for them? More resource roundups are coming, so let me know in the comments what I should profile next!


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